Who stole the tarts?

The Hatter addresses the jury:
"14th of March, I think it was" he said.
"15th" said the March Hare
"16th" said the Dormouse
"Write that down" the King said to the jury;
and the jury eagerly wrote down all the 3 dates on their slates
and then added them up,
and reduced the answer to shillings and pence.


(Lisbeth Zwerger for a special edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, via Maria Popova)


There are so many kinds of Time.
Consider this description of NOW in Astrological Time:

If you're looking at the stars — and why wouldn't you be? you'll know that
Saturn has entered the sign of Pisces.
It happened in early March:
shaggy old Saturn, god of constriction and mortality,
has lowered his haunches into the Piscean waters.
He'll be there until May 2025, an intractable lump in that wishy-washy environment.
Displacing it. Blocking it. Imposing his limits.
Enough with the changeability, he says to dippy, fin-flashing Pisces.
Enough with the half-assedness. Further mutation is not possible.
Now you're going to face — and be stuck with — yourself.
(James Parker, April 2023 The Atlantic, pg 68)


I've been exploring my own involvement in various understandings of Time, and I realize that I've been thinking around Time a lot in these last weeks, or is it months? Or longer. What follows is sort of a guided tour through the Times I've found myself visiting as I wrestled with Brian's Question: What do you think about time?

I remember a characterization quoted to me by Bill Skinner 50+ years ago:

and there are cycles to be attended to: the seasons; longer-cycle regularities (e.g., The 28-year Solar cycle of the Julian calendar, after which days of the months return again to the same days of the week); the inception, heyday, and decline of imperial dynasties... and so on. And on. And further on.

I have lots of books that are somehow involved with Time and its passage; indeed, few are entirely outside of time, or can be seen as time-irrelevant. A lot of my attention over the years has gone into Histories of many sorts, and into tracking change and trying to unravel and understand dynamics (the calculus of changes in Time) at scale levels from the microscopic to the macroscopic.

an example of the macroscopic: NASA's New Horizons Reaches a Rare Space Milestone (15iv22)
...on April 17 at 12:42 UTC (or April 17 at 8:42 a.m. EDT), New Horizons will reach a rare deep-space milepost — 50 astronomical units from the Sun, or 50 times farther from the Sun than Earth is...

It's almost 5 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) away; a remote region where one of those radioed commands, even traveling at the speed of light, needs seven hours to reach the far flung spacecraft. Then add seven more hours before its control team on Earth finds out if the message was received.

...and of course the Webb telescope offers us even more macro views almost daily...

Building an eloquent array of collected thoughts about Time is a pretty challenging prospect, but I do want to narrate my exploration of kinds of Time that I've been thinking and reading about. Bulleted sections may help to keep some sort of order, though each is the proverbial tip of iceberg/ears of hippopotamus.

Each of these varieties of Time has its own metric, its own dramas. And many can be found in books I've been visiting and revisiting. Each of the bulleted varieties below has associated chronologies, but their apparently linear course obscures complexities and intercalations: Time is messy, uneven, rife with confusions and contradictions. And all of its versions are imaginary: We thought them up, and we live within them. That's as scary as it is profound.

Personal Time

At the Grand Scale:

Vocational and Avocational Time

I searched Maria Popova's Marginalian for mentions of time and plucked some especially toothsome passages:

What Is Time: 200 Years of Ravishing Reflections, from Borges to Nina Simone

And time is a dictator, as we know it. Where does it go? What does it do? Most of all, is it alive? Is it a thing that we cannot touch and is it alive?
(Nina Simone)

There's an Etruscan word, saeculum, that describes the span of time lived by the oldest person present, sometimes calculated to be about a hundred years. In a looser sense, the word means the expanse of time during which something is in living memory. Every event has its saeculum, and then its sunset when the last person who fought in the Spanish Civil War or the last person who saw the last passenger pigeon is gone. To us, trees seemed to offer another kind of saeculum, a longer time scale and deeper continuity, giving shelter from our ephemerality the way that a tree might offer literal shelter under its boughs.
(Rebecca Solnit)

Altered States of Consciousness: The Neuropsychology of How Time Perception Modulates Our Experience of Self, from Depression to Boredom to Creative Flow

The sense of time is "embodied" in a more all-encompassing way than the other senses. Ultimately, time perception is not mediated by a specific sense organ, as happens in the case of the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, or touch. There is no sense organ for time. Subjective time as a sense of self is a physically and emotionally felt wholeness of our entire self through time.

Time Is When: A Charming Vintage Children's Book About the Most Perplexing Dimension of Existence

...even humanity's greatest thinkers, be the scientists or philosophers or poets, have failed to offer an adequate definition of what time actually is, producing instead a variety of aphorisms, wisecracks, and other clever evasions. (Susan Sontag, riffing on John Archibald Wheeler: "Time exists in order that everything doesn't happen all at once." Richard Feynman: "Time is what happens when nothing else happens." Augustine: "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know. If I wish to explain it to one that asks, I know not.")

James Gleick on How Our Cultural Fascination with Time Travel Illuminates Memory, the Nature of Time, and the Central Mystery of Human Consciousness

The mind is what we experience most immediately and what does the experiencing. It is subject to the arrow of time. It creates memories as it goes. It models the world and continually compares these models with their predecessors. Whatever consciousness will turn out to be, it's not a moving flashlight illuminating successive slices of the four-dimensional space-time continuum. It is a dynamical system, occurring in time, evolving in time, able to absorb bits of information from the past and process them, and able as well to create anticipation for the future.
What is time? Things change, and time is how we keep track.

So I went to the nearby shelves and immediately found several books that bear directly upon this Question.

A book I never did buy: Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time (in the running for the most-purchased least-read "bestseller" ever). But in today's Guardian there's A Brief History of Time is 'wrong', Stephen Hawking told collaborator, which introduces Hawking-collaborator Thomas Hertog's On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking's Final Theory (publishing April 2023)

According to Hertog, the new perspective that he has achieved with Hawking reverses the hierarchy between laws and reality in physics and is "profoundly Darwinian" in spirit. "It leads to a new philosophy of physics that rejects the idea that the universe is a machine governed by unconditional laws with a prior existence, and replaces it with a view of the universe as a kind of self-organising entity in which all sorts of emergent patterns appear, the most general of which we call the laws of physics."


Some YouTube videos that have much to do with Time, and maybe other things too...

Everything Everywhere All At Once

...and 3 Minutes:


Arctic data cable linking Europe to Japan secures first investment

A new Arctic fiber project aims to link Asia and Europe via the Northwest Passage

Cinia and Far North Digital Sign MoU for Pan-Arctic fiber cable


My Kindle Queue, 21iii23